I have been obsessed with what drives and motivates human behaviour since I can remember. During the last ten years I have wanted to know the recipe for creating a team of winning mind-sets or even an organisation of winning mind-sets. Over the last 100 years we have seen the likes of Roger Bannister break the four minute mile, Tiger Woods dominate at golf and Michael Jordan set a new bench mark in Basketball. Teams like Manchester United consistently stay at the top of world-class football. Michael Phelps, Sir Steve Redgrave, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and many more have amazed the world with their passion and drive to succeed.
I have learnt that a winning mind-set is essentially an attitude of mind. With the right mind-set you will live, work and compete at your full potential. Virtually everything you do in your life is ruled by choices that you make. You can choose to focus on the negative or the positive; you can get stressed about things beyond your control or you can focus on the things that you can influence. An obstacle can be a barrier to performance or it can be an opportunity to learn and improve. These choices will have a direct impact on your performance and well-being.
After ten years of research and observations of top performers, I have come to the conclusion that there are three key criteria for creating a winning mind-set. Firstly, those who possess a winning mind-set have a high level of self-awareness; they know their strengths and weaknesses, motivations and their approach to taking risks. Secondly they have the ability to manage their thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours, especially when under pressure i.e. they can manage the mist. Thirdly, they are goal orientated and have a plan for achieving their goals both personally and at an organisational level. The 3 Principles have become the cornerstone of Winning Mindset Consulting’s philosophy.
Be Self- Aware
The first principle is Self-awareness. Top performing individuals have a high level of self-awareness. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, motivations and your approach to taking risks is key to your success. However the biggest barrier to self-awareness is often ego. Unfortunately many leaders are driven by their ego. Their desire to be right, never to be seen as vulnerable, or making mistakes is the biggest inhibiter to bringing out the best in themselves and others.
Being aware of your strengths and knowing how to exploit them will give you a competitive advantage. Too often we focus on weaknesses only to become less than average at our weaknesses and then neglect our strengths, reducing the impact of what we are great at. However, you should also be aware that an over used strength can become weakness if not managed properly. Strengths can de-rail you and cause you to behave in ways that are not conducive for high performance. It’s important to know what type of leader you are, so that you can avoid strategic bias. In my book Managing the Mist I refer to four types, Results driven, Process driven, Cultural driven and Image driven.
Another important element of self-awareness is to know what motivates and drives you to succeed. Motivation is a hot topic when it comes to team performance and leadership. Nothing happens without an action, however action is also associated with risk, and it is likely that you have a deep-rooted approach to how you manage risk. To help stay motivated I encourage clients to influence and be accountable for what motivates them. As a starting point we look at the ‘Seven Motivators of the World’ also described in my book.
- Sense of wellbeing
- Personal development
- Making a difference
I recommend that you put them into an order and focus on the top three.
Being self-critical and having high expectations is an important component when it comes to developing a winning mind-set. Whilst being critical of your performance is important, it is also important to know that today you are ‘good enough’ and tomorrow you can be even better.
It’s important to get to know your inner critic and become more familiar with the voice inside your head. Most people try to ignore it, only to find that it appears when they least expect it. It can cloud your judgement and create the mist. Just when you realised your goal and a strategy, you hear a voice say “Yeah but” or “What if”. It can create limiting beliefs and try to throw you off track. All top performers and entrepreneurs hear it, but what separates them is their ability to deal with it.
Ultimately it is a distorted version of you that you have created through the environment you have grown up in, it is your conscious self. The inner voice is often referred to as the ‘gremlins’ or a ‘bully’. I recommend that you give yours a name. Imagine what it looks like or draw an image of it on paper, try and make sense of it. You can also draw a positive image, identify with a friendly version, a positive advisor, maybe even how you see yourself in the future. This level of awareness is essential when working towards your goals. The voice will always be there so it may as well assist you in reaching your goals, rather than preventing you.
2. Stay in the Zone
The second principle and the area of performance that I am most often approached about is Stay in the Zone. Individuals and teams that perform at the highest level have the ability to manage their thoughts, feeling, emotions and behaviours, essentially they are able to ‘manage the mist’ when they are under pressure. Being in the zone will enhance your gravitas, how you resonate with people, it will increase your awareness, clarity of judgment, decision-making and the ability to manage risk effectively. It will also define you as a person and your level of mental toughness. There are moments in our life when we act irrationally and we later reflect on this experience wondering why it happened, sound familiar? It is simply a natural response to a perceived threat. The opportunity here is to rationalise the perceived threat and put it into perspective. The brain doesn’t differentiate from one threat to another and therefore reacts accordingly.
Another key factor when developing the ability to stay in the ‘zone’ is how you perceive a threat. The bigger the threat the more cortisol is released in the body. Cortisol is the hormone related to stress that helps protect you in danger but not necessarily useful for high performance. We will go into more detail in Part Three.
3. Have a Strategy
The third principle is Strategy. Top performing teams and individuals know what they are aiming for, they have a purpose and they know how to get there. They have what I refer to as their ‘House in Order’. Getting Your House in Order is a metaphor for creating a holistic strategy using a whole brain approach. It requires having a vision for the future, a plan and an appropriate set of behaviours for achieving your goals. Whether you’re leading a team or an individual wanting to improve your own performance, having a flexible and holistic strategy is absolutely crucial. Without a strategy you will fall short of achieving what you set out to do, you will be familiar with the adage “Fail to plan, plan to fail’. Avoid failure by applying the approach I share with you Part Four and you will go on to achieve more than you ever thought possible.
As an Olympic event comes to a close, an athlete will start to plan for their next event, this is one of the key differentiating factors between the mind-set of an athlete and a non-athlete, an athlete is constantly looking towards their next goal. They will have a vision, which will be broken into smaller goals, a plan of execution and the right set of behaviours in place to drive performance. This is a characteristic that you will need to adopt to achieve high performance. A winning mind-set requires a relentless desire to succeed. I’m not suggesting that you never rest. Rest and downtime are essential factors for continuous improvement and it should be included in your planning. I am often asked to help individuals with their time management, when I suggest to them that they should take at least another hour out of their time to do nothing except reflect, they think I am mad, but are pleasantly surprised at how more efficient they become by building downtime into their diary.
A strategy will give you a sense of purpose and direction. Without purpose the world can become a very unhappy place. As with motivation it is our personal responsibility to create purpose for ourselves. You’ll need a vision for a desired future state, you’ll need to know your strengths and what motivates you to take action. It’s not always easy, but you are biologically equipped for survival, so take advantage of your innate winning mind-set and go for it. We get one shot at this life and today is the start of the rest of it.
Having the right mind-set and belief for achieving goals is the difference between winning and losing. Having a winning mind-set is not about being ruthless, stubborn or suppressing emotions. It requires openness to change, embracing failure rather than avoiding it. I am a strong believer that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. If you think it, you can become it. Your thoughts become a reality and therefore you must be careful what you think about. Negative thoughts can become a reality too! On a positive note, if you can visualise your goals, where you want to be and when, and persevere through the pain, your thoughts will become a reality. Trust me. There is a difference between accepting failure and being a failure. Failing at something is acceptable, accepting your failure is not.
Andrew Sillitoe is the author of ‘Managing the Mist’ (£12.99 Panoma Press) which is available from Amazon. To find out more visit http://managingthemist.com/
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